Rick’s tenure on The Walking Dead has come to an end, but to get to his future, he must first revisit his past. Here’s our review of “What Comes After”.
“What Comes After” spends forty minutes giving you everything you need to say goodbye to Rick Grimes, and the last five minutes backtracking on the emotional nature of his sacrifice. It’s been stated that this was Rick Grimes’ last episode on The Walking Dead, and I should have realized that it didn’t mean his death. Unfortunately, The Walking Dead is no longer a series that stands alone.
It’s a franchise, and Rick is too valuable to the franchise to let him go so easily, but if he leaves The Walking Dead, it frees up the storyline a lot, and I get it.
In “What Comes After,” Rick is visited by the ghosts of apocalypse past, and they’re sole purpose is to bring Rick’s story to a close.
His first encounter is with Shane.
Jon Bernthal being back on the show is incredible, and it’s so great to remember his and Rick’s easy yet contentious relationship.
“I’m looking for my family.”
“Oh, is that what you’re doing, looking for your family, huh?”
“Well, see, that’s not entirely true. One could argue it’s my family you’re lookin’ for, right? How is my baby girl, by the way? Got my eyes, doesn’t she?”
“Mm. She hasn’t got your nose.”
“Good thing she ain’t got my ears, man.”
“Ah, you’re such an asshole.”
“Oh, yes, I am, yes, I am. I am the asshole. Same as you, really.”
“Oh, you think I’m an asshole?”
“I don’t think a thing, man. I know you’re an asshole. I like to take credit for that, actually, Rick, when I think about it. I mean, I’m sure others did influence you, but I’d like to take full credit.”
In true Rick form, he tells Shane that he thinks it has to be him who makes the changes in the world, and that’s when Shane stops him. He tells Rick that it doesn’t have to be him, that it needs to be Shane. In order for Rick to fix the situations he’s caused, he’s going to have to dig down and find his inner Shane, that asshole, that man who bit out Joe’s throat.
The only problem is, Rick isn’t willing to do that anymore. Shane’s whole purpose is to show Rick that he’s not the man for the job and also, Judith isn’t actually his blood, so this “family” isn’t the same one he was looking for at the start of the series.
It seems like a way to give Rick permission to leave.
The next hallucination Rick sees is Hershel.
This one is devastating on two levels, Hershel tells Rick that he did his best and that’s enough, and also because this is the last work that Scott Wilson did on The Walking Dead before he passed away last month.
Hershel was always the moral compass of the show, and to have him, even in spirit, tell Rick that he thinks he did the best he could, and that he doesn’t hold him responsible for anything that happened to Beth or Glenn, and that Maggie’s strong and will be strong for her son, is the assurance that Rick needs.
Rick will always believe that it was his duty to protect everyone, but sometimes he failed, and that’s the way it falls. Granted, he could have exacted revenge for both Beth and Glenn and didn’t, but we can’t change those things now.
“I’m so sorry for what happened to you. To Beth and Glenn. For everything Maggie’s lost.”
“Maybe if I tried harder, done things different, listened more…”
“My girl, she’s strong, and my grandson, he’ll only make her stronger. You ain’t gotta worry about her.”
“I need to find my family. I need to keep ’em together.”
“No, you don’t. You only think you do.”
The scene itself is gorgeous and is reminiscent of Rick and Hershel looking out of the farm in S2 as Hershel tells him he didn’t imagine the world ending this way.
Well, none of us imagined Rick leaving, so I guess it’s a good comparison. Hershel is there to absolve Rick of his guilt and make him feel okay with his eventual decision to blow the bridge or stay away.
Finally, Rick sees Sasha. He’s in a field of dead bodies, people who died before him, people who came after, and Sasha tells him that everyone dies.
“How can it be okay? How How can this be okay?”
“‘Cause you did your part, like I did mine, like the others did before us.”
“They give us the strength that we needed to do what we had to do for the others, and the others draw strength from us. We change each other. We help each other. We make each other better. And it never ends.”
“It feels like it’s ending.”
“Little things do end, but it’s never the end of everything, because we don’t die. It’s not about you or me or any one of us. It’s about all of us. And I don’t think it just evens out. I think it always crosses over toward the good, toward the brave, toward love. Your family? You’re not gonna find them, because they’re not lost.”
This is Rick’s justification that he can move on from this current juncture in his life. He might think it means death, but I have a feeling that will come into play sometime in the future, too.
So, Rick goes through the process of grief in “What Comes After”. He’s angry, he wants to finish what he started, he’s tired, and finally he accepts what he has to do…save everyone else.
At the bridge, he hallucinates Michonne, who tells him the reasons she loves him, and Rick finally comes to the conclusion that he’s not looking for his family, he’s already found them. He gets up and as the walkers approach, an arrow hits the nearest one in the head, followed by another arrow, taking down another close walker.
Rick looks and see Daryl and all the others coming to his rescue. The only one who doesn’t run for the bridge is Daryl. He understands what Rick has to do, and that the others won’t be able to fight the herd to save him.
He provides cover fire for Rick as he walks forward and aims his Colt Python at the dynamite that’s fallen and become exposed and pulls the trigger. He blows up the bridge and the future he imagined, to save everyone else.
This lesson is for everyone to grow from and the hardest to accept. Sometimes, the future you want isn’t the future you’ll get and being able to adjust the vision is the hardest thing you’ll ever do.
Michonne is devastated and held back by Maggie and Carol. Daryl starts to cry and walks off into the woods, defeated.
This isn’t the end for Rick, though. He washes up down shore and Anne finds him. She begs the helicopter people to take them both and save Rick, which they do.
In the end, Rick is saved by the helicopter people we know nothing about and flown to a location we don’t know. The scene time lapses, and we see the breakdown of the barn and fence they flew over, and we meet new survivors.
They’re completely surrounded until someone from the woods shoots and kills the walkers nearest them and creates a path.
This is when we meet older Judith Grimes who saves the damn day.
Another major incident that happened this episode was Maggie deciding not to kill Negan.
He has an emotional breakdown where he begs Maggie to kill him because he wants to be with his dead wife, and Maggie tells him no. She came to kill the Negan who murdered Glenn, not this shell of a man.
Here they go again humanizing this asshole so that he can be all bond-y with Judith and turn over a new leaf. I have no idea why they have to try and make him decent because like Maggie said, “Not everyone is redeemable”.
I really disagree with this decision, but I understand why they did it. Rick’s gone, and they need to have something to prove he was right in keeping him alive, so he’ll change. They put him in a cell like he put Saviors in to break them, and he broke under the same torture.
Finally, I’ll be very honest, I wish they had let Rick die. This episode was really well done and had great callbacks to the previous seasons. To have him be flow away, cheapens the story.
As we go into the future, this is truly a new beginning. Someone who has never watched the show could jump in tomorrow and be fine.
From this point forward, Rick Grimes is truly a legend and a whispered about, larger-than-life hero. His departure opens up the narrative and allows for other stories to be told without trying to figure out ways to keep the main protagonist alive in unlikely situations.
It makes sense, but again, it falls flat with Rick still out there. How does he never try and get back to his family? Why open up the world for more crossover when you could work on telling a solid story on one platform?
Those are all questions for another time, though.
What did you think about “What Comes After”? How do you feel about the time jump and the Whisperers?
The Walking Dead airs Sundays on AMC at 9/8c.